Cutting-Edge Leadership

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Do Americans Trust Too Much?

Do we trust too much? Are we easy targets for deception and being cheated?

Have you ever been lied to, cheated or conned, and never saw it coming? Did you kick yourself afterward and say, “Why was I so trusting?” There are 4 key psychological reasons why people trust too much.

1. The Trusting Bias. Because humans are a social species, we may be programmed to trust others (unless we have a specific reason to be suspicious). Research on deception shows that people will judge participants as more truthful than deceptive, even when they are told beforehand that the participants are lying half of the time. We simply expect that people are telling us the truth.

2. Belief in a Just World. Humans have a tendency to believe that the world is fair. We have an unfailing belief that things will work out in the end, and that suffering now will lead to rewards later. Let’s face facts: The world is not fair and bad things will happen to good people. But this causes us to trust that others will treat us fairly, and that is often not the case.

3. Cognitive Laziness. We take mental shortcuts. One that causes us to trust too much is neglecting to analyze what others are telling us. It takes less cognitive effort. That’s why we don’t carefully read contracts or properly investigate claims.

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4. Drive to Avoid Embarrassment. We are programmed to believe and trust others because if we challenge or question them, we are easily embarrassed. We fear “calling someone out” because if we are wrong it is embarrassing. It is easier to keep quiet and trust.

What can be done about our trusting biases?

First and foremost, engage our minds! Analyze, ask questions, fact check. Instead of trusting that things will work out, purposely work to make things better. It’s ok to trust people who we know, but be wary if something doesn’t sound right, or sounds too good to be true.

There are a lot of people out there who understand how trusting people can be and they seek to take advantage. Use this knowledge of psychological processes to protect yourself.

 

Follow me on twitter:

http://twitter.com/#!/ronriggio

 

Ronald E. Riggio, Ph.D., is the Henry R. Kravis Professor of Leadership and Organizational Psychology at Claremont McKenna College.

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